1 Sugar Cookie Dough, 5 Ways to Decorate


Create beautiful decorated Christmas sugar cookies with this awesome sugar cookie and royal icing recipe! sallysbakingaddiction.com


Baking cookies this weekend? Let me help! Today I’m sharing 5 easy and approachable ways to decorate Christmas cookies. Decorated sugar cookies is the December baking challenge and my goal with this post is to keep that momentum going. If you’re intimidated or nervous about making royal icing and creating adorably festive sugar cookies, this is for you.

And so you can fully understand and see it all come together, I’m going LIVE on my Facebook page today at 1pm EST! I’ll make the royal icing and decorate with you. If you can’t catch me at 1pm EST, the video is always saved in my video archive shortly after I’m done. Scroll down to the LIVE video section to find it.

Soft sugar cookies on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Before we begin decorating, let’s review my sugar cookie recipe. This recipe produces soft sugar cookies with crisp edges and a nice flat surface for decorating. They have a pronounced vanilla flavor and taste unbelievable on their own! They’re my fave.

The Dough

Only 7 ingredients: butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, flour, baking powder, salt.

With so little ingredients, it’s important that you use them all because each serves a very important purpose. Creamed butter + sugar makes the base of the cookie dough. This creates a buttery flavored foundation and incorporates air into the cookie dough, creating lighter textured cookies. Egg is the cookie’s structure. Vanilla adds flavor. I also like to add a bit of almond extract to make these sugar cookies taste extra special. It’s optional, but I suggest you try it! Flour is an obvious addition, baking powder adds lift, salt balances the sweet. So many *little ingredients* doing their *big jobs* to create a beautiful sugar cookie.

You can flavor with different extracts or spices, like cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. I actually prefer a pinch of cinnamon in them. So good!

The dough is nothing out of the ordinary, but my method is unique.

The Method

I discussed this a couple weeks ago, so I’ll only lightly touch on it again today.

This sugar cookie dough needs time in the refrigerator to solidify the butter and to guarantee the cookies hold their shape in the oven. Instead of chilling it as one massive chunk of dough (see above picture in the bowl!), roll the dough out and THEN chill it in the refrigerator. The dough is so much easier to roll out before it’s chilled. To make this even easier for you, divide the dough in 2 then roll it out. It’s much more manageable to work with in smaller portions.

I like to roll the dough out on a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Why? Since we will chill the rolled out dough in the fridge… are we going to just pick up this rolled out mass of dough? No! Roll out on a nonstick surface that you can literally pick up, put on a baking sheet, and place in the fridge.

A visual:

Rolled out cookie dough on sallysbakingaddiction.com

I created a separate post for my favorite royal icing. If you ever need a royal icing, I wanted you to be able to find it in one easy spot. It’s my favorite because it’s easy to work with, tastes great, sets quickly, and doesn’t require raw egg whites. And, best of all, it doesn’t have a hard cement-like texture. It won’t break your teeth like other royal icings!

Here is the sugar cookie recipe written out for you. After that, you’ll see how to decorate each fun shape pictured today!

Ingredients:

  • 2 and 1/4 cups (280g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks; 180g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • optional for flavor: 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • royal icing

Directions:

  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract (if using) and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. If the dough seems too soft, you can add 1 Tablespoon more flour until it is a better consistency for rolling.
  4. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each portion out onto a piece of parchment paper or a lightly floured silicone baking mat (I prefer the nonstick silicone mat) to about 1/4-inch thickness. The rolled-out dough can be any shape, as long as it is evenly 1/4-inch thick.
  5. Stack the pieces, with parchment paper between the two, onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours and up to 2 days. If chilling for more than a couple hours, cover the top dough piece with a single piece of parchment paper.
  6. Once chilled, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Remove one of the dough pieces from the refrigerator and cut into shapes with cookie cutter(s). Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used. Repeat with 2nd dough piece.
  7. Arrange cookies on baking sheets 3 inches apart. Bake for 11-12 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges. Make sure you rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating. I like to decorate cookies directly on baking sheets so I can stick the entire baking sheet in the refrigerator to help set the icing. So place the cooled cookies back on baking sheets.
  8. Decorate with royal icing.